Diet and exercise may be the most common prescription for losing weight, but a team of US scientists believes they're close to delivering a gum that can help users fight the battle of the bulge one chew at a time.
The key to the gum's formulation is a hormone called human PYY that regulates appetite and energy and is released into the bloodstream when people eat or exercise, say researchers out of Syracuse University in an announcement made November 21.
Studies have shown that obese people have lower concentrations of PYY in their bloodstream compared to their non-obese counterparts. When given PYY intravenously, however, the hormone acted as an appetite suppressant in obese and non-obese volunteers as both groups consumed less calories.
The hard part? Delivering the hormone so that it can travel through the digestive system unharmed and allow it to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Lead researcher Robert Doyle believes the answer lies in vitamin B12. It would be the second time Doyle developed the vitamin to act as a carrier for a hormone. Several years ago, he created an oral delivery system for insulin that was masked under vitamin B12. Early tests accomplished the same task for PYY. Results of the study were published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry earlier this month.
"Phase one of this study was to show that we could deliver a clinically relevant amount of PYY into the bloodstream," Doyle said in a statement. "We did that, and we are very excited by the results."
Like nicotine-laced gums which are used to help people stop smoking, PYY-laced gums and oral pills would be a natural way to help people lose weight, Doyle said.
About four hours after chewing the gum, the PYY supplement would begin to kick in and decrease appetites as users approach their next meal.
Meanwhile, a story published last week on WebMD.com also highlighted the benefits of chewing gum sweetened with xylitol, also known as birch sugar.
While some dentists recommend chewing the gum to prevent cavities, scientists have also found that xylitol-sweetened gum could help prevent painful middle ear infections common in children because of its bacteria-fighting properties.